Recap: Edible Oddities Consumed in Iceland, plus What’s On the Menu Next Time

Soon after I returned to the States, I joined some friends at my church’s family camp.  Everyone was excited to see me and hear stories from my trip, and apparently people had been reading my blog, because more than one person asked me about/applauded me for all the interesting (and often disgusting) foods I tried.  I think I have written about everything I tried, but they’re spread out over several blog entries, so I thought it might be interesting to compile the list now.  So, without further ado, I present to you the list of…

Edible Oddities I Consumed in Iceland

(Plus several non-oddities…)

>>>

Kjöt, Fiskur, og Egg (Meat, Fish, and Eggs)

  • puffin – Yes, the cute little black-and-white bird.  Can’t say I enjoyed it much; it’s very strong, almost gamey, and I wasn’t feeling well the day I ate it anyway, but if/when I marry Helgi, I suppose I’ll have to get used to it.

  • sviðasulta (sheep’s head jam) – This is what happens when you scrape out all the ooey gooey bits and pieces from inside a sheep’s head and smoosh it together into a gelatinous cube.  Just about as terrible as it sounds/looks.

  • harðfiskur – Unsalted fish, dried to a straw-like crisp in the sun and wind.

  • hákarl – The infamous putrefied Greenland shark.  (Disclaimer: I didn’t actually swallow it, but considering that Gordon Ramsay threw it up and Anthony Bourdain described it as the single worst food he’s ever eaten, I think that even keeping it in my mouth for 5 seconds counts as a success.)

  • horse meat sausage – I don’t think it was entirely horse meat; it actually tasted like lamb to me.  Anyway, I didn’t know it contained horse meat until after I had eaten it.  It was really quite good, although I’m still not much of a red meat person.

  • pylsa – Icelandic hot dog made with lamb, topped with crunchy fried onions, raw onions, ketchup, mustard, and remoulade.

  • lamb – I know this isn’t exactly an exotic food, but I don’t normally eat red meat and actually I don’t think I had ever eaten lamb before.
  • hangikjöt – Smoked lamb, thinly sliced and served with flatbrauð and smjör.  Not bad, but a little too smokey for my taste.
  • lax – I tried smoked and cured varieties, but they were both too raw for me.  I’ll stick to cooked smoked salmon.
  • this weird egg – I don’t remember what kind of bird this is from, but my host parents insisted they are SO much better than hen eggs.  That might be true, but I was too disturbed by the translucent white and the too-orange yolk to really register the taste.

  • súrsaðir hrútspungar – Soured ram’s testicles.  Actually one of the least heinous of the disgusting-sounding traditional foods.  Just a little sour.

  • fiskibollur – Like meatballs made of fish.  Not bad, not good.  I don’t think fish should be quite that chewy.
  • fiskbúðingur (fish pudding) – I could have translated the ingredients on the can (yes, it comes in a can), but I figured it was safer not to know.  It comes out of the can in one big cylinder, then is sliced and pan-fried.  Like the fiskibollur, it was a little too chewy for comfort…
  • steinbítur, ýsa, karfi, og meira fiskar – I ate a LOT of fish, and I didn’t always know what kind it was.  I do know that I loved the steinbítur and karfi, but found the monkfish rather questionable.

>>>

Brauð (Bread)

  • rúgbrauð – A dense, dark, sweet rye bread made with molasses.  One of my favorites.  I need to find a recipe.
  • pönnukökur – Icelandic pancakes.  Basically a crepe.  Served with rhubarb jam and whipped cream or simply with sugar. I need to attempt these at home.

  • hveitikökurFlat white bread, similar to pita bread.  I ate it for breakfast with smjör and cheese.  Mmm.
  • flatbrauð – Not sure how to describe this.  As the name suggests, it’s very flat, it has a mildly sweet taste, and it’s often paired with smjör and hangikjöt.

>>>

Sykur (Sugary Treats)

  • rababarasulta – Rhubarb jam.  I don’t usually like rhubarb jam in the States, but I think it’s the official jam of Iceland, and it’s very good.  Seems to be served with just about anything, from pönnukökur to meatballs.
  • hjónabandssæla (‘happy marriage cake’) – Oatmeal cake with jam filling.  I tried some from a bakarí in Reykjavík, enjoyed the one Ásta made in Hvolsvöllur, and ordered some on my flight home (the flight attendant was extremely impressed that I could pronounce it correctly).
  • hrísgrjónagrautur (rice pudding) – I tried three versions of this.  One was already prepared and just had to be heated on the stove; one was homemade by Hrafnhildur, and one came in a little individual-serving container with a side of caramel sauce (hrísmjólk með karamellusósu).  They were all magical.

  • Prince Polo bars – Okay, so they’re actually Polish, but they are well-loved in Iceland, and I can see why; they’re pretty tasty.  Too bad they’re made by Kraft.

  • skyr – A thick dairy product, similar to Greek yogurt.  Love love love it!

  • Nói Síríus chocolate – Yum yum, although I much prefer the dark varieties (which you have to find in the baking section; apparently your average Icelander thinks chocolate over 45% cacao content is not suitable for direct consumption).
  • black licorice – Eh.  I tried the sweet kind and the salty kind and the in-between kind and while it no longer makes me want to gag, it’s far from my favorite.

>>>

Drykkir (Drinks)

  • Icelandic moss tea –  Mild flavor; nothing too exciting.
  • kaffi kaffi kaffi – Mmm.  Icelanders don’t know what weak coffee is, and that’s exactly how it should be.
  • Egils appelsín (orange soda) – Not much of a soda drinker, but this was pretty good.  It was also good in combination with maltextrakt (the mix is known as jólaöl).

>>>

Although that is quite the list and I am certainly proud of it, I did miss out on a few important items of Icelandic cuisine.  Oh darn. Guess I’ll have to go back.

>>>

On the Menu for Next Time:

  • whale meat – I actually had the chance to try this but I didn’t take a piece in time and then it was all gone.  One of my few regrets.
  • svið (sheep’s head) – I could have tried this at our Taste of Iceland dinner, but I refrained, which was good, because as it turns out, our particular sheep’s heads had not been cooked…

  • ástarpungar – A round doughnut-like pastry with raisins.
  • brennivín – Icelandic schnapps.  The name literally means ‘burning wine.’
  • Icelandic moss soup – I don’t think this is exactly common dinner faire any more, but I’m assuming you can find it in some tourist-serving restaurants…

That’s all I can come up with.  Can you think of anything else I missed that I should add to my list?

Advertisements

Flatey, Part 2

Flatey: The Rest of the Story

I already wrote about most of our Flatey trip, but there are a few more pictures and stories about that day that I want to share.

First of all, when we boarded the ferry, Hrafnhildur asked me if I was going to get seasick.  I assured her that I am quite used to ferry rides (in the summer anyway) and would be just fine.  It was a clear, calm day and I was indeed just fine.  Apparently in the winter they often have to cancel the crossing due to bad weather.  It’s a fairly small boat… not sure about the vehicle capacity, but there’s a little galley with ridiculously overpriced food, plus a nifty little theater where they show movies (there was some oldie on starring Mel Gibson).  Kind of a nice idea for winter crossings, or for people who ride the ferry all the time, but I wasn’t about to waste my time watching Mel Gibson when I could be enjoying the scenery.

Skipping ahead to Flatey, let’s recap: we perused the fish-factory-turned-giftshop by the dock, walked into Þorpið (the village), said ‘góðan daginn’ to all the summer residents who were out painting their houses, listened in on choir practice at the church, had kaffi at Hotel Flatey, and enjoyed the constantly beautiful view.  Eventually we ran out of things to do, so we lingered by the hotel for awhile and watched kids jumping into the water, then meandered back to the dock and sat in the sun while we waited for the ferry to return.

>>>

Flatey Scenes:

>>>

Sheep! I took this photo just for my mama, who has an inexplicable obsession with pictures of farm animals, specifically sheep and chickens.

>>>

>>>

These contraptions are all over the place. They’re for hanging fish to dry. Why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly good fish by drying it for 6 weeks until it looks and tastes like fishy straw is beyond me, but it seems very popular.

>>>

Flateyan Goods

>>>

Enjoying the sun and waiting for the ferry

>>>

The ferry arriving to take us home

>>>

Homeward bound

>>>

On the ride back, I once again stayed above deck the whole time.  This time Sæmundur and Hrafnhildur joined me, and Sæmundur tried to locate Skáleyar, the islands where some of my ancestors lived.

>>>

Looking for Skáleyar

>>>

We ate pizza at a little restaurant back on the mainland, and I eavesdropped on the conversation of some English-speaking tourists sitting behind us.

On the drive home, Sæmundur suddenly pulled over.  He wanted to show me the area where my great-great-grandfather’s farm was.  First he showed me Neðri-Arnórsstaðir, but then right across the street we discovered a sign for Miðhlíð, the actual name of the actual farm where my great-grandfather was born (and I think where he lived until he left for America at the age of 9 or 10).  I don’t know if the land boundaries are the same as they used to be, but in any case, he was born in this area and enjoyed this incredible view of Snæfellsness.  Impossible to really wrap my head around, but incredible nonetheless.  I would have loved to be able to talk to the people who live on the farm now and see what they know about its history.

>>>

Neðri-Arnórsstaðir

>>>

>>>

The sign for Miðhlíð, the farm where my great-grandfather was born.

>>>

Not a bad place to live, eh?

>>>

My ancestors had to suffer this terrible view.

>>>

We had to take Astrós back home to Tálknafjörður, so we enjoyed some heitt súkkulaði out on the deck and then her younger sisters said ‘komdu!’ and invited me to jump on the trampoline with them. The language barrier didn’t matter too much. We just jumped and jumped and laughed and laughed.

>>>

This morning Hrafnhildur and Sæmundur showed me a book with information about farms and towns in the area and the people who lived there in the past century.

>>>

>>>

Here’s the page about Miðhlíð:

>>>

Miðhlíð

>>>

Patro, circa 1913

>>>

I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I am walking on the same land as my ancestors did, seeing the same views of the same impossibly beautiful land, but it’s true.  Hey Mom, have I convinced you that you need to come yet?  🙂